The personal aim as a motivator for language learning
Language learning for seniors is a complex topic. Many texts of the available literature on the topic often focus on the potential challenges: i.e., that the pace of classes should be slower than it would be for groups of younger learners and that repetition plays a bigger role in class.
Another aspect which is not as frequently mentioned in the literature and which has emerged during our own research is that senior learners often have a very concrete aim in mind when learning a new language. This can, for example, be a benefit for their professional life if they are still working, or a desire to communicate with family who lives abroad, or on holiday trips to foreign countries.
What is very important for teaching a foreign language to senior learners is an approach based on their interests and based on their personal aim. If a group is interested in current affairs, for example, why not look at a recent speech of a politician from the country whose language the group is learning? Or if the group is interested in culture, why not work with music or literature in the foreign language? This makes both vocabulary and grammar more easily accessible and allows the participants to relate both to content and to language. After vocabulary and grammar structures have been addressed in class, it can be very successful to give senior learners the opportunity to talk about the respective topic in a way that allows them to draw from their own life experience and their own biography. This approach can strengthen motivation and contribute to senior learners enjoying their class – which in turn is more likely to result in a successful learning experience.